Sometimes it is the small things that count. This is proven in the design of the new England rugby shirt from Canterbury. A new season is brewing which calls for a new style of shirt and MenswearStyle were very kindly invited down to Twickenham to be a part of the launch. Comments from fans have been flying in every direction since the launch as they are surprised with the small amount of changes in the shirt. The fact is, there isn't a huge amount that needs to be changed or that can be changed, particularly to an all-white shirt. There is a new grandad collar and a new patch for the 3D rose which both give a nod to the heritage of the sport and the original 1871 shirts. With the extensive technological research into the fibres used, Canterbury have continued to reduce the weight of the fabric to minimise the absorption of moisture. Each player's shirt has been body-mapped in order to create the best fit for each specific position in the team.
There may not have been a huge variation when it comes to design but this shirt still looks smart and the small changes do exactly the job intended. They are a reflection of the history of rugby and from speaking to the ones who will be wearing the shirt for their country, technology wise, they are perfect for the game. I had the unforgettable opportunity to talk to none other than England's inspiring captain Dylan Hartley, fullback Mike Brown and lock George Kruis. If anyone is to comment and review the shirt, then these are the men who know how it feels to wear it, and they gave it rave reviews. Canterbury have provided them with exactly what they need to feel proud and confident in representing their country. With relatively new coach Eddie Jones having turned the team around since the 2015 World Cup, I think it seems appropriate for a new shirt which will help them continue to succeed and become world number 1. There is no need for any fuss with the shirt, just keep it simple and just prove how well we can play.
How do you feel in the shirt?
Mike: “Really good. Quite tight right now after the off season! Need a couple more weeks to get back into it!”
George: “Great! Canterbury have done a brilliant job in bringing the old in with the new. It is definitely a lighter weight shirt.”
Dylan: “I am constantly walking around holding in my stomach today, starting to get cramps! I do really like the style of it.”
Do you feel like it fits perfectly for your position? What is it you look for in the body-mapping?
Mike: “It fits really well. For me I want it to be very fitted which helps when you are playing. You don't want it be loose anywhere; you don't want anyone grabbing hold of parts of the shirt.”
George: “On game day I will be wearing one that is slightly longer which is needed for the taller lads and especially with the line outs. You don't need the shirt to be riding up! As a team all you want from a supplier is someone who is going to listen to you and come back with something that matches what you told them. They’ve done a really good job.”
Dylan: “Everyone has specific requests. There is nothing worse than having an uncomfortable shirt. You need to focus on the game so it needs to feel a part of you. The new fit shirt isn't as tight as the last one. For me I've asked for it to be a little bit loser down the sides… as I have just come back off holiday so I've got a bit of body fat to lose.”
Do you have a lot of communication with Canterbury about the shirt?
Mike: “Definitely. I have been lucky enough to be around for a few years now so they have come into camp since I have been on board and they have certainly taken into account everything we have suggested. Even when we were trying on the training kit the other day we had quite a lot of feedback for them so I am sure little tweaks will be made with the gym shorts etc. before the season kicks off.”
The new season is starting, what are you most focused on?
Mike: “For me, focusing on different areas of my game and specifically things Eddie has asked me to focus on. Obviously getting back into the England set up. Your position isn't a given so I need to go back to the Harlequins and make sure I stand out as one of the international players there.”
George: “Just making sure every time I am playing for my club or the country, that I represent myself well. For us it is going to be a big start of the season, in terms of club level. Hopefully we can put ourselves in a position where we can then wear the England shirt again against South Africa.”
Dylan: “Personally, just playing well for my club. Last year I played ten games for them out of 32 which isn't enough. If you can play well for your club, then you can get noticed and hopefully get chosen to play for England. I want to focus on my domestic season with my club and go from there.”
As an individual do you have a main goal? For example; the next World Cup or do you take it match by match?
Mike: “For me, I have a long term goal, so obviously the 2019 World Cup. However, there are lots of goals on the way and for me that is to make sure I get myself back into the England squad and then into the starting XV, to win games and the series.”
Dylan: “It sounds really cliché but you honestly do take it week by week. People ask if you are looking forward to winning the next four games, but it is pointless because if you don't win the first game, there is no winning all four games. I whole-heartedly believe putting all your focus on the first game. Once that game is done, bin it and then look at how can we improve and move on to the next.”
How do you feel the team has developed over the last year and how do you feel you can move forwards?
Mike: “I think the team has developed really well under Eddie. He has come in and worked us hard but we have also worked hard for him. We have tried to take everything on board and I think that has shown in the way we are playing. Australia was a great trip with a special group of players. To get that 3-0 was brilliant but that has just got to be the start for us. We want to be number 1. We are not complacent; we need to work hard to get to where we want to be.”
Dylan: “I think the key message we have taken from meetings recently was that as a team to get better we need to get better as individuals. As a team we can address things like the scrums but as an individual, for example, it could be strengthening of a shoulder or improving passing with a left hand or simply getting body fat down. If we can improve individually hopefully we can improve collectively as a team.”
What motivates you as a person? What keeps you hungry for the sport?
Mike: “Definitely playing for my country. It’s what I have always dreamed of doing! Playing for England means everything and it’s for my family and friends and everyone who has helped me along the way. Every time I put on this jersey it’s about representing them and all the hard work it has taken to get me here.”
Dylan: “Every time I play I just want to make my family proud. The reason for that is because I have tasted success in my career and I have had a lot of bad times. I have had a bumpy road at times and I want to enjoy more good moments, so it takes a lot of hard work to achieve success. I want to keep working hard, I want to keep being involved with this team and this environment. I really believe we can do some great things together.”
Do you try and totally switch off during your off season?
Mike: “Yes, definitely. Especially after last season which was incredibly long being about 13 months. I definitely had to drag myself off the pitch in that last match in Australia! It was a relief after winning and the season being over. My body was in bits. Cramping in my legs in the early hours of the mornings, a lot of pain! It was an incredibly tough tour. So yes you do try and switch off but for me you go into the first week and your brain starts ticking and start wondering what you need to do to get back into the team. The guilt sets in that you aren't training and you want to get back out there.”
Dylan: “It is tough. You obviously want to relax. I would say for about 2 weeks out of the 5 you do switch off. It probably takes about a week to get over the final match with all the niggles and bruises. A couple of weeks in, I don't know if its guilt or from being almost institutionalised as you are used to being in a team environment. You have a routine and I miss that, so by the end of the holiday you are really keen to get back into it. I think a lot of the lads train on holiday because it’s in our blood and it’s what we do.”
How do you deal with the pressure now that expectations are high since the success of Australia?
George: “We have done an open and honest review of where we are at since the tour. We can take confidence from the way we have played but we have to improve every session and I think this is our time now. We understand that not a single player in our squad has beaten South Africa yet so it is a big statistic! We will take the confidence but we need to prepare well for it.”
Dylan: “I think it is more 'expectation', which is a really nice thing. I wouldn't call it pressure, it sounds like a bad word. People know we are a good team, they want us to do well, they expect us to play well so I think you have to draw on that. It isn’t fear, it is nice to have that expectation to do well. As a team we are not resting on our laurels. We are always looking forward to the next game. Of course Australia was a success but that is done now, that is in the past. All the focus is on South Africa and how we can be better than we were in Australia.”
What would your advice be to younger players coming into the squad?
George: “Work hard. Not just on the pitch but off the pitch as well. The quicker they can catch up to the culture and everything that goes with playing with this squad, the better they will represent themselves. Everyone is always willing to lend a hand. Whether it be young or old. We put a lot into learning about players and each other.”
Dylan: “Be yourself. You are here for that reason. Obviously as a young kid playing professional rugby is a huge achievement but getting to that next step is to get into the squad and then the next climb to get into the team.”
Does Eddie encourage you to communicate as a captain, Dylan, outside the training camps and during the off season?
Dylan: “Yeah I mean naturally we all communicate outside. We have a Whatsapp group we all talk on! It is nice on the field that the players work with the coaches and Eddie on how we want to play the game. Off the field he encourages us to create our own team environment and culture. He makes that the players decision. So for myself and the senior players, for example, where we want to go and eat, what time we want to leave a function and whether music is played in the changing rooms, which all might be small things but it is all a team decision.”
Does it feel different wearing your club shirt to the England shirt?
Dylan: “Of course when you are playing for England, you are not sure when the next match is going to come. At Northampton, I am contracted there so hopefully there be some more games there! Obviously in my time there have been a few setbacks for me, I missed the World Cup. So you always think back to when you last wore the England shirt and its quite a scary feeling to think it could be the last time you wear it. Whether it be due to form or injury you might not get another shot so you have to cherish the moment.”